Most of us spend about half of our waking hours working, and ideally we’d all wrap up the workday feeling rewarded and fulfilled. That may be asking a lot, but according to a new survey, the reality is much worse than you might think—nearly half of employees worldwide surveyed (46 percent), including one-third of C-level leaders (29 percent) in the U.S., would not recommend their company nor their profession to their children or a young person they care about. Worse, a startling 38 percent of employees globally “wouldn’t wish my job on my worst enemy”—which rises to 45 percent in the U.S.
That’s a bleak scenario, and these feelings about work today could have a profound impact on the decisions made by tomorrow’s workforce, according to the 10-country survey of employees, C-level leaders, and HR professionals by employment research firm The Workforce Institute at UKG.
The survey underscores the importance of creating an environment of trust, care, and purpose in the modern workplace.
According to additional research from Great Place To Work, for organizations that do help their people find purpose and build trust as a core tenet, attitudes about work in those workplaces are dramatically different—for example, at companies that earn high survey scores from employees on purpose and trust, 88 percent of those employees look forward to going to work every day.
The new report, We Can Fix Work, provides insight into what parents, family members, and mentors are telling children about what they should value in their jobs and employers—urging future generations to let purpose, not money, guide career choices.
“We have to fix work today to inspire a better future for tomorrow,” said Dr. Jarik Conrad, vice president of human insights at UKG, in a news release. “There has been a shift in how people view the role of work in their lives, and some have grown disengaged in their jobs when their workplace falls short on providing a sense of trust and connection. There are many great workplaces where people feel cared for, that they belong, and that their role contributes to success. We need to take the exceptional practices from those organizations to other workplaces around the world, to help people find greater meaning, enjoyment, and purpose at work.”
Many employees are burned out: 45 percent don’t want to work anymore, period
Nearly two-thirds of employees (64 percent) would switch jobs right now if they could, while 45 percent simply “don’t want to work anymore.” This anti-work mindset is shared globally, but is more typical among full-time (47 percent) vs. part-time (36 percent) employees, and most prominent in India (53 percent) and the U.S. (51 percent), where workforce activity illustrates how this perspective may be impacting frontline work nationwide.
That said, the majority of people (84 percent) would still work if they won the lottery, and more than 1 in 4 (28 percent) would still work the same number of hours at the same company.
“I’m not convinced people don’t want to work—and the lottery question proves that humans by nature take pride in work. It’s more likely that the ways they are working and the ways they feel about their workplace aren’t aligned with what they want out of work,” said Dan Schawbel, managing partner at Workplace Intelligence, in the release. “For those 28 percent of people who would still work the same number of hours at the same company, it’s clear that their organizations are doing the right things to help them find satisfaction and a sense of purpose at work.”
With purpose and trust, 88 percent of employees look forward to work
Almost 9 in 10 employees say the pandemic helped them realize there are more important things in life than work. At the same time, three-quarters (76 percent) of employees say they have increased expectations for how their company supports them, and 70 percent are rethinking the qualities they look for in an employer.
While 61 percent of respondents admit their work is “just a job” and they work to collect a paycheck, “clock out,” and go home, the remaining 39 percent are either in a career with specific goals and ambitions that they wish to grow in time or in their calling.
“Whether someone feels they are in just a job, a growing career, or a true calling, everyone can find fulfillment, a sense of value, and success at work,” said Dr. Conrad. “People are looking for organizations to step up and support them across their entire life-work journey so they can have flexibility to put time into what matters most to them, including relationships with family, their health and self-care, and friendships.”
Great Place To Work research finds people at the best workplaces around the world are living in a vastly different—and more fulfilling—reality than the typical employee, starting with the sense of purpose they find in their work. For those at the best workplaces:
- 90 percent feel like they can be themselves
- 88 percent look forward to going to work
- 85 percent believe their work has special meaning
- 85 percent enjoy psychologically healthy work environments
What’s more, rather than warn loved ones away, 89 percent of people at these best workplaces would “strongly endorse” their organizations to friends and family.
“What do employees want? Purpose,” said Michael C. Bush, CEO at Great Place To Work, in the release. “It’s on every leader to make sure every worker, regardless of role and location, understands how what they do affects their organization’s greater purpose. People need to know their work has meaning and matters—that they matter. You better make that crystal clear if you want to earn their trust and keep them on board. Great workplaces get that and do it, regardless of the industry they are in.”
Getting it right: Guiding “Workforce 2030” toward purposeful work
While adults across all three survey groups want financial security for their kids, they would tell their children to pursue work that provides the opportunity to care for and spend time with family (41 percent of employees); a feeling of fulfillment (39 percent of employees); and a successful career path (30 percent of employees).
Above all, 74 percent of people would encourage their children to choose a profession that is meaningful to them.
“While most people today describe themselves as ‘money-driven,’ this research shows they hope future generations do things differently,” said Schawbel. “Pay will always be a driving force behind job choices, yet influence from adults dissatisfied with their companies or careers across all industries could push young people away from specific professions or organizations.”
“We can fix this,” continued Dr. Conrad. “Organizations have access to the technology today to build purposeful workplaces for all by supporting people on their journeys, making belonging central to the employee experience, and building confidence in the jobs our children and grandchildren will have.”
Research findings are based on a survey conducted by Walr for Workplace Intelligence on behalf of The Workforce Institute at UKG between September 16 and October 1, 2022. In total, 2,200 employees (including managers) in 10 countries responded to questions about employment, work-related stress, mental health, four-day workweeks, engagement/purpose at work, workplace incentives, and how their feelings toward work may be expressed to others. Responses were gathered from 600 employees in the U.S. and 200 employees in each of the following countries: Australia/New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, and the U.K. Additionally, in the U.S., 600 C-Suite leaders and 600 human resources (HR) executives/directors responded to the same survey, which was customized to their roles to include questions focused on their workforces.